The lens to integrity

Grace Dorsey

Last August a police officer shot and killed Michael Brown. Last November a police officer shot and killed Tamir Rice. Without a body camera to capture the reality of these situations, the public was left to speculate.  While some stood by the police officers’ decisions, others criticized their use of force.  Just the month before Ferguson, in July 2014 Columbia Police Department became the first department to implement the use of body cameras.
“The Columbia Police Department is always looking at new technology to better serve the public as a whole,” John Gordon, the assistant police chief and operations bureau commander (patrol) said.
The cameras help by providing additional evidence to support prosecution, and increase plea agreements, thus reducing the volume of cases in the system and providing cost savings across the board,  according to the press release from the Columbia Police Department’s website. Sophomore Elise Sickler approves the body cameras because she believes they will help with accountability.
“I think it’s a good thing because it can help prevent them from doing things they aren’t supposed to do. It can keep them from breaking the rules of being a police officer and from doing things unjustly,” sophomore Elise Sickler said “I think it’s a really good thing because it can help identify police officers that have a certain prejudice through race or gender or whatever. I think it can help prevent that because then they’ll be more aware because they are being watched. It will help with those things because they won’t break any rules.
Cameras that catch police disobedience aren’t just a recent thing. They go as far back as March 3, 1999, when there was an incident in which a camera caught Los Angeles police brutally beating a man after a high-speed chase. The recording was sent to a local news station and later broadcasted to the world. The incident resulted in the cops being charged with assault.
Junior Janylah Thomas believes basing beliefs off of whatever story seems the most logical leads to mistakes.
Most of the time, like the event that happened in Ferguson, they base everything off of a story, like which story seemed the most believable and they didn’t have cameras,” Thomas said. “I think if they would have had a camera there would have been a different outcome. It won’t be based off of beliefs anymore if they have cameras.
Still, even with camera footage, there may be more to the account. Police are trained to act quickly in a potentially dangerous situation and on cameras their actions might look like an overreaction.
Although the video ‘can’t lie,’  a video cannot tell the whole story.  The video cannot replace the human instinct, especially what the person is feeling at the moment, so we cannot judge someone based off a video alone,” Gordon said. “You must keep your opinion open until you look at an incident as a whole.”